Oakland's local bars are all about promoting this great city in the East Bay. Visitors who want a little slice of life as an Oakland native should be sure to spend some time hanging out in local bars. Have a few drinks and pretty soon the social lubricant will kick in, giving you a chance to chat it up with some interesting locals. Heinold's First & Last is a great starting point for a local bar crawl—it's oozing with local flavor and is located right on the Bay. Continue the journey on to Smitty's Cocktails, known for its cheap drinks, or Dorsey's Locker, possibly the best place to munch on some down-home pub grub. For those who love beer and the local bar scene, Barclay's has about thirty on tap to choose from—plenty to become good and socially lubricated.
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Cato's Ale House
3891 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.655.3349
Bring a date or some friends to Cato's Ale House and all of their preconcieved notions about you will instantly change because this local bar has that undiscovered, low-key hipster vibe that you've sought all your life. Seriously the grub is classic pub style and, while serving only beer and wine, the libation selection is extensive. Also, on most nights, a cosmopolitan mix of live music acts play, but never drown out your conversation; because now, through your choice of watering holes, your
5422 College Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.463.2681
The Conga Lounge embodies the essence of retro cool. A local bar that breaks away from the average hum-drum of our digitized world with kitschy lounge music, 50's decor, old movies and great island cocktails, the Conga Lounge will make you feel as if Don Ho could come walking through the door at any minute. This bar is a local favorite of hep cats and cool chicks that are longing for an extended stay in the islands, but whose budget allows for a bar tab instead of a plane fare.
4044 Broadway, Oakland, California; Tel. 510.547.9374
What makes dive bars so unique and fun to get sauced in is not only the seamy cast of regulars, but the music, and George Kaye's is no exception. Hands down one of the best dive bars in Oakland, George Kaye's sports a jukebox that would make any audiophile weak in the knees; if you're down to hear Duke Ellington, Jawbreaker, Dean Martin, the Buzzcocks, Lynard Skynard and Patsy Cline back to back, then grab cocktail or five and a stool at George Kaye's.
Hotsy Totsy Club
601 San Pablo Ave., Albany, California; Tel. 510.524.1661
We'll take local dive bars over a sleek club any day of the week, mostly because the low-key, unpretensious atmosphere and heavy pours mask our true alcoholic nature. Plus it's during incoherent ramblings that you can discern life's little thought about, hidden secrets. The Hotsy Totsy Club embodies this local dive bar feel to a tee: it's a favorite spot for regulars every night and for twentysomethings hitting that weekend bender.
2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.843.8277
A microbrew heaven for those with discerning palates, Jupiter features thirty beers on tap, ranging from their own well-crafted brews to an A-list of local suds. Also, the food at Jupiter isn't your typical local bar fare: the menu includes wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, salads and house-made soups that are sure to please anyone with an appetite. Be sure to check out the two story beer garden, where you can catch local live jazz acts.
Kingman's Lucky Lounge
3332 Grand Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.465.5464
Kingman's Lucky Lounge is a pioneer of the "ultra-lounge" trend, sporting an urban chic decor and an upscale, hipster atmosphere. However, unlike more pretentious establishments, Kingman's Lucky Lounge still offers drink specials, friendly bartenders, and house DJs who keep the beats thumping and the grooves deep while commanding the dance floor. Leave your ratty A's cap at home and bust out some cool threads to come chill with your friends at this local bar hotspot.
Luka's Taproom and Lounge
2221 Broadway, Oakland, California; Tel. 510.451.4677
Luka's gets everything right, from their unique selection of beers and cocktails, to their diverse selection of California brassiere food, to the funky vibe with displayed works by local artists and funkier music provided by resident premier DJs. Luka's is a seriously hip local bar and dance club that has an indelible Oakland feel; why cross the bridge when this is in your own backyard?
The Ivy Room
858 San Pablo Ave., Albany, California; Tel. 510.524.9220
The Ivy Room embodies a classic dive bar feel and plays host to some of the best of the Bay Area's live music acts. The emphasis is on rock & roll, alt-country and power-pop, with some East Bay punk and rockabilly thrown in for flavor. Bend your elbow and your ear, hang with some friends and soak up this great dive bar.
752 San Pablo Ave., Albany, California; Tel. 510.524.8450
A highly touted local bar that has more games than a Milton-Bradley convention, The Mallard has a surefire hipster attitude and enough flair for three joints. Downstairs, this two-tiered palace of fine libations is your basic, local dive bar, with blue collared regulars rubbing elbows with college kids and a back patio sporting a kitschy-cool Polynesian look. Upstairs there are more pool tables and dark booths perfectly suited for a private conversation. The bartenders are friendly and aim to please, making The Mallard a great spot to start and end an evening.
The Ruby Room
132 14th, Oakland, California; Tel.510.444.7224
A great local bar with cosmopolitan style, The Ruby Room gives you the feeling that you've been there a million times even if it's your first visit. The Ruby Room is dimly lit (in red, of course), with DJs spinning eclectic mixes of soul, punk, country, and funk, and a dance floor that posseses a unique easy vibe. The Ruby Room should be on your list of local bars to hang in. If it's not, go there and see why it's part of our regular bar crawl.
The Saddle Rack
42011 Boscell Rd., Fremont, California; Tel. 510.979.0477
This legendary dance club specializes in catering to country-loving patrons that can't make it to the south. The Saddle Rack is a massive structure, continually packed with two-steppin' cowpokes and bull riders (yes, of course there's a mechanical bull, and after a few better-than-average priced drinks we're sure you'll give it a try). And if that wasn't enough to wet your whistle, The Saddle Rack attracts nationally recognized country live music acts and also sports a house band that can always get the joint rocking.
Blakes on Telegraph
2367 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.848.0886
Blakes on Telegraph is a three tiered, all in one, local bar and hangout spot for Cal students while being completely welcoming to the diverse Berkeley crowd. The live music club floor is really a basement, but unlike the one you spent your youth playing D&D in, this one freakin' rocks. It has its own bar and you can dance your heart out to slick DJ stylings or thrashing live music. The main floor is traditionally music free, but when the bands start up downstairs there's a comfortable thump to the floorboards while you're munching the good bar fare. Upstairs is modeled after a classic SoHo bohemian coffeehouse with a bar, and also houses occasional acoustic live music.
Shattuck Avenue Spats
1974 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.841.7225
A local bar favorite of the Berkeley set, sporting cool shabby-chic decor and serving a decent selection of libations, Shattuck Avenue Spats is perfect for catching up with old or new friends while catching a buzz. There are no pretensions and the attitude is completely "come as you are"; a perfect local bar for languid conversation.
2278 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.549.1973
Finally, a super chill local bar lounge without that annoying drive over the Bay: Pasand Lounge caters to an older crowd (mostly in their thirties) who prefer sipping a good cocktail to a beer bong. Pasand spins some great music that's never overpowering and, hey, they serve tapas as well.
435 13th St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.451.2889
For a hip local bar with a dive bar flavor, it's hard to beat the up-and-coming Radio Bar, an establishment that's breathing new life into the Oakland bar scene. Equipped with a DJ booth that has a commanding view of the floor, Radio boasts some of the East Bay's best spinners winding out an eclectic array of chill tunes. There's a nice mix of cocktails to choose from and Radio busts out with happy hour on weeknights. Plus, the chic decor creates an atmosphere that rivals any lounge across the Bay, with Chinese lanterns that dance off the red walls.
2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.444.6174
Gosh, where to go to hear up to three hard rocking punk bands a night, get heavy drinks that won't bust the wallet and Christmas year round? Try The Stork Club, a phenomenal place to catch all of Oakland's live punk music. It's everything you could ever want; a casual and raucous crowd, cheap drinks (check out the happy hour—Like PBR for $2? Yeah, we thought you did.) and bartenders that keep pouring, and pouring. Hands down the best dive bar for the live music punk scene.
Heinold's First & Last
48 Webster St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.839.6761
That tipsy feeling you get at Heinold's First & Last isn't necessarily from the booze. This local bar fave was damaged in the "Big One" (that's right, it's been here that long). Still decorated like a creepy old fisherman's cabin mixed with the nostalgia of the Pacific theater of WWII, and still rocking the original gas lamps, Heinold's is the perfect local bar to take out of towners so they can see firsthand that living in the paradise that is the Bay Area doesn't come without its perils. Also, Heinold's is situated right on Jack London Square, so while downing your hot buttered rum you can watch lazy boats on the Bay.
5352 College Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.654.9463
Oakland's oldest Irish pub, situated in the Rockridge district, McNally's is the quintessential neighborhood bar. A large stone fireplace that burns real logs (environmentalists be damned) dominates the middle of the room while the long, highly polished wood bar screams out for patrons to rest their weary elbows and down a Guinness. On the weekends, when a band occasionaly plays, McNally's is invaded by Cal college kids blowing off steam from a grueling week hitting the books. Cheerful, witty bartenders perfectly round out the neighborhood bar atmosphere, serving drinks as quick as you can order them.
Ben N' Nick's Bar & Grill
5612 College Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.923.0327
Ben N' Nick's prides itself on an ever rotating selection of draft beers—domestics, imports, and microbrews—that perfectly reflect the season, but that's not all that's attractive about this neighborhood bar in Rockridge. No, a staggering stockpile of single malts and premium tequilas, along with always friendly bartenders that are genuinely having a good time, perfectly compliment the extensive choices of beer.
6202 Claremont Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.655.8847
A no-frills neighborhood bar that serves up stiff drinks at reasonable prices, The Graduate doesn't try to be anything more than it is; and that's refreshing. The bar's name suits it perfectly—you're likely to find patrons older than your typical college bar crowd. The conversations can get heated between regular patrons, but we're convinced that alcohol is a fine social lubricant; don't you agree? No? Want to argue about it? It's all good by the end because everyone always buries the proverbial hatchet with a shot and a beer. See, that's how adults do things.
3339 Grand Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.834.1591
Smitty's is a quintessential neighborhood bar that refuses to get sucked into the modern era, but that's the reason to frequent it. Seriously cheap cocktails (try around four bucks for top shelf booze) are the norm, the quarter pool table beckons for a game, and the jukebox (quarter driven as well) spits out the classics. Smitty's Cocktails is one of Oakland's oldest neighborhood bars and still recalls the old days when bars were nothing more than just bars.
3758 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.658.4740
A classic corner neighborhood bar, Egbert Souse's pays homage to the late comedian W.C. Fields, my little chickadee, and the prices seem almost stuck in that bygone era. You can get a heavy pour on mixed drinks for about three bucks and beer is even cheaper; what more could you possibly ask for in a bar? The shabby interior and antiquated jukebox haven't been updated in forever, but the decor is not what draws patrons here; if you're lost on the draw, see above.
5817 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.428.1935
Down home soul cooking blend with the extremely well made cocktails at Dorsey's Locker to keeep customers smiling and coming back. Seriously, how often can you find a neighborhood bar with food this great? Not often. The kitchen definately pumps out some genuine Oakland fare, so come hungry. Dorsey's Locker also sports probably the most hospitable staff around, so leave your attitude at home.
5940 College Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.654.1650
Do you like beer? We like beer and can muse for hours on it, but let us tell you this: Barclay's, a friendly neighborhood bar and grill is a beer drinking paradise. With about thirty of the frothy libations on tap and located just below street level in the Rockridge district, Barclay's recalls the taverns of old where friends meet to converse and enjoy life. The food is excellent and plentiful, the beers are many (Barclay's also has a full bar for those of you not into suds), and the boisterous crowd gets a little louder on the weekends.
Temple Bar— Tiki Bar & Grill
984 University Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.548.9888
If Cal offered a degree in Hawaiian cultural studies, drinking and dining at Temple Bar would be a core requirement for graduation. Here you're encouraged to hang out with everyone, and believe us everyone will want to hang out with you because the
atmosphere is like a family reunion; one that you really want to go to that is. Classic Pacific Rim dining fare mix with island cocktails and on the weekends catch the live Hawaiian music.
1517 Franklin St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.452.3338
Pat's has got to be the groovinest local bar in Oakland and anyone popping in on a Friday night can certainly attest to that. The drinks are stiff and plenty, the dance floor is always packed with patrons jumping to 70's funk and soul or hip-hop, and the overall atmosphere is friendly, sometimes very friendly.
Baggy's By The Lake
288 E. 18th St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.763.5721
A venerable dive bar in the Lake Merritt district, Baggy's makes you feel immediately welcome in its friendly confines. Everything is seriously inexpensive here and the bartenders, who also co-own the place, are like the hosts at a feel good neighborhood keg party. Baggy's is Lake Merritt's hang out place for everyone, we go there and, believe us, if we're welcome, so are you.
5515 College Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.653.2565
You just can't help but like a place that crossed over from serving up Sunday morning sermons to serving booze. The Hut, now a classic neighborhood bar, saw the change coming back in 1933 and hasn't looked back, yet still adheres to the church philosophy of welcoming everyone. The cocktails and beer are extremely cheap, the crowd is very nice, and the pool table still takes quarters. Amen.
3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.841.2082
A dirty dive bar with a unanimous badly reviewed menu, Starry Plough doesn't offer much except cheap drinks and some good live music in the more alternative vein. However, if they get their act together in both service and food then this could become a regular pit stop on our dive bar crawl.
Talk of the Town
4481 International Blvd., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.534.8255
Heck, strong drinks, good Mexican food, live local music acts downstairs and headliners upstairs; we really don't need to say anything more. Except that Talk of the Town is a hip little joint with a great local bar feel, that packs in a tuned in, friendly crowd whenever there's live music. Really, Oakland has no other place like this, so now you're obligated to check it out.
2438 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.848.8652
Cal students rub elbows with East Bay punks while swilling a good selection of microbrews at Raliegh's, a neighborhood bar that also offers more than decent pub style grub. You can shoot some stick here without hitting anyone or chill on the outdoor beer garden, the prices aren't going to break the wallet and the staff is quite nice; easy on the eyes too.
1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.843.2473
A neighborhood college bar and Old World pub have found a common nexus at the Albatross Pub, where you can find an eclectic crowd, good conversation, and a host of entertainment. Free live music on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays (that's right free) in a variety of styles usually packing the pub on these nights and on other nights there's an undeniable neighborhood bar feel that makes you want to return.
Geoffrey's Inner Circle
410 14th St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.839.4644
Geoffrey's Inner Circle is a hot little local bar spot that caters to those who like their funk, soul, hip-hop, and rap played loud.
Ms Ivy's Cocktail Lounge
355 19th St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.444.7587
Just a no frills local bar that caters to a diverse set of characters. Ms Ivy's serves good drinks at a reasonable price that aim to quench your aching thirst. Or maybe that's just our aching thirst.
1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.451.8100
Have you seen that huge guitar shaped neon sign on Telegraph Ave? No, The Starving Musician isn't selling out, that's Uptown, a rock & roll themed live music club that sports a huge bar, a seperate room replete with stage and dance floor, and some well poured, potent cocktails. Most of the interior is dimly lit which lends this club an air of rock elegence, but don't let that fool you, Uptown gets rollin' with some good live music acts.
Jack London Bar
444 Embarcadero West, Oakland, California; Tel. 510.832.6637
Named for our own venerable writer, Jack London Bar serves cocktails the old sot would have been proud of in a setting that suggests the good old days when bars were bars.
1524 Peralta St., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.893.7540
A little local bar, the Cozy Den offers up that distinct Oakland neighborhood bar feel. The drinks are served strong and there's some video entertainment for those of you that get bored with your own thoughts easily.
4092 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.652.4032
You know why we love little hole in the wall local bars so much? It's because most of them open up at 6am, seriously we don't have to be to work until 9 or so, and as many a great would preach, liquor makes everything you write better. Kerry House opens at 6am, so all you would be Hemingway's can wake up early and get the creative juices flowing.
4822 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.654.1423
A no frills bar catering to the neighborhood's need for an inexpensive watering hole. Seriously, you can pull up a stool and revel in your anonymity while slugging down a decent cocktail at Connolly's.
3329 Foothill Blvd., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.533.1767
With a name that sounds like another tired spin-off of Happy Days, Little Al's local bar, does the one thing you always wished they did at Arnold's, serve heaps of booze—Ha, try riding that motorcycle now Fonzi.
3218 Adeline St., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.652.4166
Serving the diverse cast of Bekeley good drinks at a reasonable price is the foundation that Nick's Lounge, a little neighborhood bar, is built upon. At any time of day, you can catch some Cal students "studying", or just local yokels escaping the patcouli scented local streets toughs.
Sam's 58 Club
1035 Heinz Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.843.0416
Okay, so we've only been there a couple of times and there's one thing about Sam's 58 Club that has always bothered us: what's the 58 for? We like to know everything we can about our local bars and that 58 has perplexed us for quite a while. There's no 58 in the address, no 58 beers on tap, no 58 anything; we keep meaning to ask someone that would know, but we're always a little too drunk to remember. Oh wait, 58 shots! That has to be it.
2115 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, California; Tel. 510.644.2226
Acme bar is quickly ascending our rankings of great local bars to while away a couple of hours without whiling away all of the money in our wallets. Nightly drink specials keep the prices in check and DJs spin all of your favorites. That is if your favorites include everything from classic and new punk to bluegrass and rockabilly like ours do. And plus, you just can't beat that name.
2541 Seminary Ave., Oakland, California; Tel. 510.638.9418
What can we say about the Vintage Inn? It's a local bar that caters to a host of regulars, serving cheap drinks that flow until closing time. And, really that should be enough.
Lost Weekend Lounge
2320 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, California; Tel. 510.523.4700
Do as the name implys and lose yourself at the Lost Weekend Lounge, an A-lister local dive bar in Alameda. Heck, if you get there early or late you're probably going to catch happy hour, it goes from noon til 7pm 7 days a week, with cheap cocktails and beer. The place is almost always packed and, whether packed or not, always a good time. Lost Weekend's atmosphere has that retro cool dive bar feel and on nights when there's a DJ, they can musically transport you back to the eighties when they spin those now classic hits. This is definitely one bar you have to check out because we're sure you're much cooler now than you were in the eighties.
Shamrock Irish Pub
1403 Webster St., Alameda, California; Tel. 510.769.9788
If you're looking for some inexpensive fun and happen to be in Alameda, you've got to check out the Shamrock Irish Pub, an easy local bar to always have a good time in. Everyone is friendly at Shamrock's and you can amuse yourself with pool, darts, or kick back and scope some international soccer matches on the tube. The drinks are inexpensive and strong; what else would you expect in an Irish bar? Also, on some nights, Shamrock's houses an unexpectedly awesome band.
1600 Webster St., Alameda, California; Tel. 510.522.4412
Wally's Corner is just that, a little corner neighborhood bar where you can escape for a few hours, have a decent conversation and relax with a drink; because, this is exactly what neighborhood bars are there for.
Island Paradise Club
1436 Webster St., Alameda, California; Tel. 510.865.3225
We always thought that Alameda needed a little bit of the South Seas and then we stumbled in to the Island Paradise Club, we didn't find exactly what we were looking for, but we can make do with this local bar for a while.
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